The Punisher (パニッシャー) is a 1993 beat 'em up arcade game developed and released by Capcom. It stars the Marvel Comics' anti-hero and ruthless vigilante the Punisher and co-stars S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Nick Fury as the second player's character as they embark on a mission to kill the crime lord the Kingpin and bring down his organization.
The Punisher gained a significant popularity and was acclaimed by critics, being often regarded as one of the best titles in the beat 'em genre and one of the best video game comic book adaptations of all time. A Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) port was developed by Sculptured Software and published by Capcom USA and Marvel Entertainment in 1994, but is widely regarded as inferior to the original arcade version.
The game follows the same side-scrolling beat'em up formula Capcom established in Final Fight as the protagonists engage on various foes and stage bosses in brutal melee combat. Much in the same way that Capcom's Cadillacs and Dinosaurs did when released that same month (April 1993), the game distinguishes itself by the frequent use of several firearms (an Ingram submachine gun, an M16 rifle and an improvised flamethrower), along with the traditional melee and thrown weapons (including baseball bats, hammers, knives, Japanese swords and shuriken), as well as improvised weapons (such as lead pipes and car tires).
Unlike in Final Fight, the Punisher and Nick Fury's size, abilities and tactics are essentially interchangeable; they both use the same punch, kick, throw, and special piledriver and "megacrush" attacks. There are also several sections of the game in which the characters draw their handguns enabling the player to shoot the enemies. The game is presented in a comic book-like style, including featuring on-screen onomatopoeias such as "BLAM!" for gunshots.
Common villains the players confront during the course of the game range from street punk thugs, to the Tommygun-wielding mobsters and machinegun-toting mercenaries, to voluptuous kunoichi ninja-women with palette swap-coded special powers. Marvel Universe characters Pretty Boy and Jigsaw are included among the strong regular enemies (as a cyborg and a gunman). The Punisher's aide in the game is Microchip, while Nick Fury is aided by Alexander Pierce and Kate Neville. The Ryu-like karateka enemy Yan Lee's name is a tribute to the Marvel comic artist Stan Lee.
A home port of The Punisher was released for the gaming console Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) in North America in 1994 and for the PAL region Mega Drive in 1995. This version, while published by Capcom, was developed by Sculptured Software. In addition to the worse graphics and sound, lesser variety of enemies, and a smaller amount of objects on screen than in the original, many of the previously breakable background objects were rendered unbreakable due to the limitations of the Genesis' hardware. There is also some content censorship in this version (it includes the animation of cigar smoking by Fury being removed from the game, female ninja enemies with skimpy outfits becoming fully clothed, and a removal of the scene where the Punisher shoots the defeated first level's boss character Scully after his interrogation).
Reviewing the Genesis conversion, VideoGames called it "a decent exercise in vigilante mayhem" that is "surprisingly fun, yet fairly standard game." The Genesis version was lambasted by Next Generation, who stated that "not much good can be found" in the game and "the person responsible for putting out The Punisher deserves a good spanking." Retro Game Age opined that "Capcom did a decent job of porting the game," but nevertheless "could have done better, especially considering the work done on Super Street Fighter 2."